Facing grid constraints, China puts a chill on new wind energy projects

World Today

An electricity pylon is seen next to wind turbines at a wind power plant in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Energy wastage on wind farms in China worsened in 2015, as plunging utilization rates kept 33.9 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) from being delivered to the grid, the energy regulator said, the equivalent of a fifth of total generated wind power.

Average utilization rates last year fell 165 hours from 2014, the regulator said, calling for tougher measures to cut wastage, as China works to boost grid capacity and convince transmission firms to give priority to renewable energy.

“Restrictions on power caused by waste wind have already become a major problem impacting the healthy development of the wind power sector,” the National Energy Administration said on its website.

The National Energy Administration said in a statement last month that they have stopped approving new wind turbines in regions including Gansu, Xinjiang and Ningxia.

The regions previously installed nearly 71 gigawatts of wind turbines, more than all the rest of China combined. A single gigawatt of electricity is enough to power 700,000 homes.

Such huge electricity capacity, if transmitted to the power grids, could be hazardous to grid operators, according to the local officials.

Wang Feng, the division head of Energy Bureau of Jiangxi Province, told CCTV that the scale of existing wind power installations is huge, leaving the grid struggling to cope with it.

The amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed, he added. This poses a safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grid vastly more fragile.

Officials said they planned to send the electricity generated by wind power to central China’s Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi provinces, which however was mitigated by grid limits and safety concerns.

“Long distance power transmission poses bigger risks of blackouts at the receiving end. If the power goes all of a sudden, it could cause large-scale blackout at our end,” Wang said.

Critics have accused local governments of focusing on capacity rather than efficiency and utilization, hitting renewable energy targets by building windfarms in regions plagued by low wind speeds and insufficient grid capacity.

The regulator said it would create a power trading mechanism to transmit wind power across provincial and regional boundaries, besides taking action to make sure increases in generation and transmission capacity go hand-in-hand.

China aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy mix to 15 percent by the end of 2020, up from 12 percent in 2015.

Story by Reuters and CCTV News.